“What kind of bird are you?!”, Wes Anderson‘s Moonrise Kingdom is the latest film from the director to join the Criterion Collection. The perfect platform to showcase his talents, with a charming sweet tale of lost love. Young love and unbridled friendship.
The film is the follow up to Anderson’s 2009 stop animation Fantastic Mr.Fox. He’s a director known for his doll house world building, but that film’s world was already built thanks to Roald Dahl. A risky move for him that worked for him essentially because of the off-kilter, craziness. There was the small matter of George Clooney and Meyrll Streep were part of the voice cast, enough said!
Moonrise Kingdom marked his first ‘live action’ in five years, since the much maligned Darjeeling Limited (2007). Some fans consider that film as their least favourite Wes Anderson film with Moonrise as one of the better ones. Blessed with his trademark symmetry and composition, what more do we need?
Moonrise Kingdom takes us back to 1965, a small inhabited island just off the New England Coast, USA. New Penzance a fictional small town we meet two twelve year olds: Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), young lovebirds who make a secret pact and fall in love.
Both kids are unpopular amongst their fellow tweens. Sam is a troubled orphan who is also a scout whose in adoption limbo. No one seems to want him but local police chief, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) temporary looks after him. Suzy is equally troubled, sporadically violent toward her younger siblings. She is also the eldest child of lawyer parents Walt and Laura Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). Their marriage is on the rocks and Laura just happens to be having an affair with Sharp.
The starry-eyed lovers make their escape and go on the run. With their parents and the authorities including ‘social services’ (Tilda Swinton) on their trail. With a dangerous storm approaching the island the search gets frantic, will they find them?
With this film Wes Anderson steps back into his Doll house universe, this time it feels a little personal too. He’s been considered one of the most misunderstood filmmakers, so are our young lovers in Moonrise Kingdom. You wonder if young Sam is a fragment of Anderson? When the film was originally released some believed the film was an cinematic lover letter to love of his life, Juman Malouf. He denied it, but like Sam and Suzy Wes and Juman both understand each other.
What this film does highlight, is the unhappiness of our grown ups. Our lovebirds encapsulate the innocence of love and being young with no responsibilities. The adults on the other hand lives are blighted with crisis and loneliness. You are left wondering with the kids living their lives to the fullest, adults in chaos, who are acting like the responsible adults?
Moonrise Kingdom may not be revolutionary in what it delivers, it provides the relevant substance fans of the director expect. Elaborately charming with plenty of love and affection for it’s leading two kid actors. Entranced in the director’s trademark uber style, whimsical (yes!) and absurdly deadpan.
Regular DoP Robert Yeoman paints that that candy coated palette capturing the 1960’s setting perfectly whilst portraying Anderson’s visual aesthetic. Backed by a magical score that features the music of Benjamin Britten. A fantastic turnout from the cast with Edward Norton as the straight-faced scoutmaster one of the many standouts.
Moonrise Kingdom is an idiosyncratic, old fashioned adventure, that reminds us of our lost youth. That passage of life so awkward, reminds us adults don’t take your frustrations out on the kids if life isn’t the way you wanted it…
Drama, Romance, Comedy | USA, 2012 | 12A | 18th November 2019 (UK) | Blu-Ray | Criterion Collection (Sony Pictures Releasing) | Dir.Wes Anderson | Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand